Creator or Consumer?

Have you ever thought about where you fall in the categories of humankind? I must admit, it’s a subject that has been done to death by philosophers over the centuries, and there really isn’t anything I could say that hasn’t been said before. I can’t even say it in a much more entertaining or clever way, either. There is a certain value, however, in reminding myself (and you) that the great majority of mankind could be said to fall into two categories: that of the creator, and that of the consumer.

Having recently acquired an iPad has forced me to determine for myself which of these categories I would like to fall into. I say ‘would like’ because it is a thing in progress. 😉 When I got my iPad I spent some time browsing tutorials on how to use the iPad and also to find out which applications would best suit me as a nursing student and aspiring writer. The majority of blogs, news articles and so forth were in two camps about the iPad’s functionality: some were of the opinion that it was good mainly for consumption – that is, for watching movies, playing games, browsing, and generally wasting time (blame it all on the magnificent Retina display).

As I am now the very proud owner of an iPad, I find myself at two roads diverged… however, I do not believe so much that it is the iPad’s innate functionality in question, but the owner’s use of it. Can I say anything more obvious? Yet it is surprising that so many journalists, tech experts and the like feel the need to do endless reviews of the iPad praising its many qualities – both as an instrument for creation and as a tool for consumption, as well as taking very definite stands as to which activity owning an iPad encourages most. The iPad itself is thus at question, not the user. Were I to conduct a research project on the opinion of the so-called ‘tech’ population in regards to its perspectives on the iPad I could, hypothetically speaking, and based on my personal research, find a sample of people that stubbornly uphold the iPad as only a consumptive device. Not a word about a consumptive generation, mind you – it’s all to do with the device!

Is this reflective of a lack of accountability? That we blame our tools for our lack of creativity instead of ourselves?

I believe it is true to say that nowadays the average person creates far less than they used to – although they mightn’t like to admit that. Just think – In our great-grandfather’s day if you wanted to cook a hot meal, you did it from scratch. No zapping things in the microwave! If you wanted a certain kind of dress, you made it yourself. Think of the creativity involved in such a task! Choosing the fabric, planning the design, etc… nowadays we just drive to the store and buy a ready-made, factory produced piece, the thousandth of its kind. Readily made foods in the form of chain-food stores and supermarkets make life even easier. An elderly lady once told me that life in the 21st Century was much more fast-paced than in the early, or even mid 20th Century. Why is that? I ask myself. Is life nowadays necessarily happier, since we have things so easy? Mind you, of course I acknowledge that everyone works hard according to their capacity and according to their obligation to survive in this world today. I’m merely addressing the changes in our contemporary society that seemingly make life easier than it was a century ago, with our technology, namely, computers, faster cars, iPads, heating systems, washing machines, etc., not to mention television.

It is undeniable that the great advances in technology feed the creativity of some – take the talented movies directors of our time, for example, or the masters of their craft who have refined technology to such an extent that we, the common populace, can now scarcely do without our devices. But what of the countless others? Those who watch, rather than do? Everyone is familiar with the image of the working class person who comes home from work in the evening, and slumps down in front of the television after a day at the office. Wives complain about it; soap operas glamorise it. Seriously, what would happen if the Internet globally crashed for a whole week? Mayhem? I’d say so…

The debate over the iPad’s functionality and use is an instance where mankind judges his ability to produce based on the limitations of a device. It makes one wonder how Tolkien got by penning ideas for his story on the back of a student’s essay! In some ways the proliferation of technical devices has dampened our productivity… why? Is it so easy for us nowadays that it’s hard?
Have we lost the will to fight precisely because there is no fight?

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4 thoughts on “Creator or Consumer?

  1. Very thought provoking Antonia. Loved it yet again! What WOULD happen if the internet globally crashed? Catastrophic for economic reasons, but one wonders how much better off we all would be. I think you’re right when you say it is not the devices at fault, but the operators of those devices. We forget they’re supposed to aid us…not control us. People become slaves to their electronic gadgets, afraid to let a minute elapse before answering a call, or replying to a txt.
    I will continue to use my ‘brick’ for communicating and continue to check it only now and again at my convenience (and yes, I will continue to feel self-righteous) 🙂

  2. Thanks for reading, Ineke! And the feedback! It’s fascinating, for one, to watch the amount of time people spend on facebook – which can be a good tool for communication – but I often think that it does control people’s lives. If their computer or smartphone broke down for a day they probably wouldn’t know what to do with all the time they usually spend browsing their facebook pages!!! Imagine if they allotted all that time to something productive, say, a hobby, or chore that they’ve been meaning to get into for some time!

  3. Huge opportunities for increased productivity do come from the new digital devices. Our consumptive era just yearns to solve the perennial quest for meaning in their lives just like our forebears did – but we have more leisure time (& distractions) to do so…

    • A recent thought that attacked me is the possibility that we will no longer need to learn cursive. Perhaps this is a strange thing for anyone to think, but my reason for thinking this is, well, look at horse riding. This was an age-old skill that virtually everyone knew how to do, much like handwriting. When cars came into play, the need to be able to ride grew less and less. Now, horse riding is something that you learn to do if you are fortunate enough to own a horse, or several horses, and it is definitely something that we can exist without. With the increased use of computers and digital devices, how long do you think it will before we will completely get rid of paper systems, filing binders, etc?

      It’s an interesting thought.

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